Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Stranger Than Fiction: My Grant Morrison Writer Magic Moment

A funny thing happened to me just after I wrote my last post, reminscing, almost completely unprompted and with no point except perhaps a lightly antifascist conclusion at the end, about one very specific mostly irrelevant class I took in high school. Not ha ha funny, more Alanis Morissette "Ironic" funny (but definitely funnier than a 90s comic dunking on the lyrics to "Ironic.") I ran into somebody I knew from back then.

Was this person in that Entrepreneurial Studies class? I want to say yes, but my brain can't specifically place her in it. She was definitely a close friend of many of my friends in that class. We ate lunch together and she insistently teased me about random embarrassing things she remembered about me from grade school all the way up through the end of high school. This didn't make her my favourite person to hang out with, but at least unlike the majority of people I knew in my teen years, this indicated she was capable of forming an opinion about me. 15 years later, I respect that.

So what happened was, as usual during the middle of the afternoon at work, I went down to the chic coffee joint in the building next to my office. I do this regularly every day usually around the same time  although its only revently I've returned to this coffee house after trying some of the other nearby options. As I walked in, I found the place a little more busy than usual, which is irritating because I'm used to just popping in and grabbing my coffee before anyone know I've left my desk.

As often happens in a busy place, I scanned the room for people to watch while I wait in line and I saw this person who I thought I recognized. Maybe it's her, you know, it's been a while since I've run into her and I don't know what she's doing with her hair lately or if her face has slightly changed in the last decade.

It could have been one of those "I thought I saw so and so" things but another unusual thing occurred - they asked my name for my insanely simple coffee order. So qhen I said it, then they said it out loud, and I passed by this person to add the childish amount of cream and sugar I put in my coffee, I heard her voice, "Scott?" I pointed and said her name back, like I had to take a minute to think of it, like I hadn't already noticed and thought it was her.

I've been working at this office for about a year and a half now, living in the city of Toronto for most of it. This is the first time in all that time that I have had a random en ounter with anybody from any part of my past, even though I know the city is swarming with them.

Actually that's not true, I ran into a guy from my old bowling team last spring while he was on his way to a Raptors game. But that's it.

Anyway, it was the first time in forever I raninto somebody and could give a fully non-embarrassing update on my life. She herself had a very cool sounding job at a well known website who doesn't need the publicity of being named here, doing video editing. I tactfully declined to mention thst I had recently read that many platforms were regretting the pivot to video as its monetary potentiL seems to have bern greatly exaggerated - there wasn't a moment to fit it in.

She asked if I kept in touch with anyone from high school, which for a snort od "Oh, fuck no" from me. Not that I laugh at the ideaof keeping in touch, if people are important to you, only that it's pretty amazing the degree to which I am out of touch with people from my past. She listed a few people she still sees, and the people they still see, and I left feeling neither of our ways was especially better.

All in all the interaction lasted a minute, 90 seconds at most. I thought wow, she works nearby, I get a coffee there almost every day at three. How many near misses must we have had? Yet this was the day I see her? I wrote later on Twitter that, because I had written that post, I had conjured her up with some Grant Morrison writer magic.

This is of course in reference to Scottish writer of comic books Grant Morrison, who in is biography-slash-analysis of the medium Supergods, mentions feeling the effects of things he had written into his works, including being hospitalized after having a character shot in The Invisibles, I believe.

Pictured: Magic Scot

I suppose a more familiar comparison would be the Will Ferrell movie Stranger Than Fiction, which is both good and something people have heard of, but this is real life, let's keep it grounded in actual instances of magic.

I have invoked GMWM at least once before, you know. Sometimes I find that in the grand scheme, things I write do wind up resembling reality after the fact, but I can chalk that up, normally, to life proceeding along a pretty fixed axis that feeds my writing.

But at least once I felt very strongly that the very act of my putting words into the world somehow affected the fabric of reality in a potentially dangerous way.

Some years ago I wrote a short story called "Pluto." The major theme of the story was s young directionless millennial seeing guidance, or perhaps solace, by visiting his oft neglected grandfather. Over rhe course of the conversation the grampa slips away into a deep aleep, and later our young man realizes his grandfather has passed away, just like that. I wrote the story and thought it was pretty good, but it was something lkke a year before I showed anyone, rediscovering it and posting it to my Tumblr.

That same week -after shelving the story for months - my grandmother, who was in her 80s but still vital and living on her own, fell ill and was hospitalized. As we all grew concerned fearing the worst, I couldn't help but see the parallel. It was apooky. So I did something.

I changed the ending of the story.

I already feel, personally, that I just don't have the heart to kill characters in things I write. Life is too precious to me and permanently ending a fictional one always feels hard. In this case it was something I had wanted to explore but now that I had done it, somehow this fictional old man and my grandmother's fates were entwined. And if I lost someone I cared deeply about just so I could have thematic purity in a story five people would read, it didn't seem right.

So I changed the ending. After spending the night chasing down his grandfather's cat Pluto, our young man gets the call that grandpa is okay after all. Hokier than it was before, and more uplifting than I try to be on purpose, but it was a fine, acceptable ending.

Grandma pulled through soon after and is still with us - although not as healthy as she once was. I've never really told anyone in the family about my supposed role in her recovery thoigh. I'm still squeamish about killing fictional characters in things I write, which is probably on the list of things that are keeping me from finding success as a writer, albeit in a low seed.

Still, my experience yesterday makes me seriously think what I should be writing about on this blog... like famous lottery winners, or overnight success writers who are handed grants to complete a novel based on the strength of their X-Men recap blogs.

Stranger things have happened. Not many, but I'm sure I could come up with some.

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